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The Wine Foundry’s Custom Crush Program Makes Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True

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There are many custom crush facilities in the Napa Valley, but The Wine Foundry’s program is particularly interesting for its approach to offering aspiring entrepreneurs the tools they need to enact their vinicultural visions.

Founders and owners Valerie and Philip Von Burg (an attorney and a business consultant, respectively) are a married couple whose love of wine, food and travel brought them to northern California, but it was pure serendipity that they landed upon a defunct winery and all its inventory — and had the courage and vision to buy it in 2012.

Winemaker Patrick Saboe, who had been with the previous property, brought his skills to bear in the new concept, and the trio launched what has been a very successful multi-pronged wine business. In addition to custom crush services, they make their own wine under two different labels, and they maintain relationships with top viticulturists who work with some of the most prized vineyards in California, so their custom crush clients can choose from a range of options.

The possibilities that lie before The Wine Foundry’s clients are not so different from the Von Burgs own story, in that they involve an intersection of talent and serendipity. If a client comes in with his or her own grapes and a winemaking background, all that might be needed is a facility in which to do the work, and The Wine Foundry offers a state-of-the-art facility. Another client might want a full-service experience with an end product of corporate gifts or bottles to aid in non-profit fundraising. Some folks simply want to bottle wine for personal consumption and gifting.

Then, there are clients like Aamira Garba, who realized career success early in life. By age 30, she had checked off much of her bucket list — and she was already married, had two beautiful kids and a happy life, along with a big corporate job in marketing that more than paid the bills, a job she actually enjoyed. But she acknowledged to herself that she wasn’t fulfilled. She happened upon Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a book that triggered in her a desire for something more, and she decided to stop over-thinking and start “following the signs.”

Garba visited the Napa Valley and began learning about wine, and she especially connected with Stuart Ake, The Wine Foundry’s chief educator. She also began the WSET program and worked her way through two levels before COVID hit. (She plans to continue on to Level 3 as soon as possible.) She says that “Stuart made me feel like I could do anything,” which was a big deal given that she’d had no mentors in the space. After just a bit of confidence-boosting, Garba launched her own brand, LoveLee Wine, which brings together her love of cooking, travel and wine.

It’s no small feat that this black- and woman-owned brand has excelled in a white, male-dominated world, and it’s no accident, either. Garba says that The Wine Foundry supported her in all the essential ways that made it possible for her to enact her vision. Today, her label has a devoted following, and she’s also taking her sommelier hat on the road as a speaker on podcasts, a guest writer for blogs, and an all-around wine aficionado who is living her life fearlessly.

The Wine Foundry offers clients the opportunity to choose their own vineyards, a winemaking plan that includes vineyard-monitoring updates, blending and finishing options, and a design package that allows you to select the bottle, cork, capsule, and label that’s right for your brand.

The sky’s the limit, and the stories coming out of this creative 21st-century venture are downright inspiring.

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